SINGAPORE — A new animal rehabilitation center has opened to take in stray animals and help them adjust to the home environment, so they can more easily find adopters and be rehomed.
Located in Lim Chu Kang, the Animal Rehabilitation Center is managed by the Animal and Veterinary Service (AVS).
It has 13 kennels to acclimate stray dogs to a typical home environment and two cat rooms that can accommodate up to 10 cats.
When it opened Thursday, March 31, AVS Group Director Dr. Chang Siow Foong said the facility was specifically designed to create a conducive environment where animals can undergo a science-based rehabilitation program.
“Through this program, they become much better adjusted and adapted to become more comfortable staying in a home,” he said.
MEET THE STRUCTURAL REHABILITATION NEEDS OF ANIMALS
The Center for Animal Rehabilitation was designed around consultations with Dogs Trust, Britain’s largest dog protection group, and the findings of the AVS Project Rehab canine rehabilitation pilot programme.
Since November 2019, 70 dogs have been successfully rehabilitated and housed by animal welfare groups through Project Rehab.
“Stray dogs come from different environments, so some may not be socialized to human interactions or the urban environment. They may carry a bit of fear, anxiety, and stress,” Dr. Chang.
Some key features of the center include a visitor center that mimics a living room and dining room, equipped with everyday appliances.
“We wanted a space that mimics the home environment…(so that) the dogs are comfortable with the sounds of the television or the vacuum cleaner, which are new to them.”
The kennels are also set up in such a way that the dogs are not confronted with other kennels, which reduces their stress level.
“The kennels are also compartmentalized into two sections, a sleeping area and an active area. Given the choice of where they want to be, we’ve found this helps reduce their stress levels,” Dr. Audrey Chen, director of the Animal Rehabilitation Center.
The center also includes two dog parks and a clinic.
EVALUATIONS EVERY THREE MONTHS
Upon their arrival, the dogs are assessed by AVS veterinarians and are microchipped, vaccinated, castrated and treated if necessary.
They then undergo behavioral observation to determine if rehabilitation is necessary. If so, AVS spends two weeks identifying the issues while considering other factors such as the dog’s health and behavioral history.
“We tailor behavior modification plans for each dog…which is more effective and gives them a chance to be rehomed,” Dr. Chang said.
Every three months dogs are assessed until they are deemed ready. Then, animal welfare groups such as the SPCA will help find potential adopters.
“Through this program and facility, we hope to see animals from the community…be housed, adapt well, and that adopters receive the appropriate care support (for the animal) and continue their rehabilitation. if needed,” Dr. Chang said.
At the centre’s opening ceremony, Minister of State and National Development Tan Kiat How said having fewer stray dogs on the streets alleviates community concerns about dog welfare , as well as potential risks to public health and safety.
“By continually building our community capacity for animal management and care, we can ensure better health and welfare for these animals,” he added.
Since the Trap-Neuter-Release-Manage program launched in 2018, public comments about stray dogs have dropped by more than 60%, he said.
AVS hopes to sterilize 70% of stray dogs by 2023, with most finding permanent homes after that.
Mr Tan also urged Singaporeans to adopt instead of buy animals and attend AVS awareness events to learn more about the behavioral needs and best practices of pets.
AVS has also launched a pilot program in collaboration with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) to exchange knowledge and improve the process of transitioning from rehabilitation to finding a home.
Ms. Aarthi Sankar, Executive Director of the SPCA, said the facility will facilitate the adoption of animals as they are already used to a home environment, which addresses some concerns of adopters.
“Through this collaboration, SPCA staff can also work hand-in-hand with AVS staff to rehome some of these animals and share key information on best practices and rehabilitation,” she said. .